THE RESULT: For the third day in a row, the Washington Nationals took a lead into the ninth inning. For the third day in a row, they lost. Today, Michael Hinckley and Saul Rivera gave up one-run leads in the eighth and ninth innings, and Rivera paid for it with his job.

Hinckley surrendered a solo home run with two outs in the eighth to Cody Ross to tie the game at three. Rivera then walked Emilio Bonifacio, catcher John Baker doubled him in, walked Ross Gload intentionally, Jeremy Hermida walked unintentionally, and Ross delivered again, a three-run double that killed off the Nats in the first home Sunday game of the season.

The "relief" scuttled a decent outing from Daniel Cabrera, who went five innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and four walks. He did not strike out a batter.

"I think it's embarrassing. I think it's unacceptable. I think our fans have every right to be mad like we are right now," manager Manny Acta said. "We're going to have a brand-new bullpen tomorrow, and if those guys who come in don't get it done, we're going to continue getting guys out of here."

After the game, the Nationals turned over one-fifth of their roster.

Relievers Wil Ledezma and Steven Shell were designated for assignment, and Rivera and catcher Josh Bard were optioned to triple-A Syracuse. The Nats have ten days to waive, trade or release Ledezma and Shell.

In their place, the team purchased the contracts of Jordan Zimmermann--who will start tomorrow--and Kip Wells, and recalled RHPs Garrett Mock and Jason Bergmann.

As if that weren't enough, there were late reports that the Nats had signed Ryan Zimmerman, the face of the franchise, to a five-year, $45 million contract extension.

THE TAKEAWAY: Well. Take a deep breath. Where to start?

First, the good news. Zimmerman's signed, WOO HOO!!! Seriously, this locks up The Face (tm) until 2013. Maybe by then they'll build or acquire some pitching.

Next, the roster moves. Look, Bergmann and Mock should have been on the opening day roster. Bard was a waste as the third catcher, and he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that his time is done. Ledezma has shown unreliable for four different organizations now.

And it's hard to see a guy this team has counted on to be a warrior, Saul Rivera, go out like this. He's been one of the few constants on lousy teams, but he has not been even remotely effective this year, earning three of the first 10 losses. He was throwing at 85-86 today, with little to no bite on the assortment of breaking balls.

Hopefully Rivera goes down and rediscovers his funkiness that has made him so dependable.

As for today's game, feh. The best play was a result of a lousy play. Austin Kearns overran a looping line drive and had to go chase it. He made a great throw to catcher Jesus Flores, who made a spectacular dive back to home plate to nab Alfredo Amezaga, keeping the game tied in the top of the eighth.

THE GOOD: Nick Johnson. He went 2-for-4 with a walk, and is hitting .385 for the season.

THE BAD: Alberto Gonzalez. Two more errors. 0-for-5. All the faults are exposed with playing time.

THE UGLY: 1-10. Let us all hope the moves after the game are a wake up call and the pitching gets better starting tomorrow. Everyone is anxious to see Zimmermann's first start, though he gets a tough draw.

NEXT GAME: Tomorrow at 7:05 pm against Atlanta. Jordan Zimmermann's major league debut against Derek Lowe (0-1, 2.81) and the rest of the Braves. You'll find me at the Red Loft, watching the baseball game and Game Three of the Caps-Rangers series.

Photos 2009 © Cheryl Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

UPDATE: Videos from WUSA9 with Zimmerman and Rivera (before sent down). MASN interview with Shell (before sent down).

2 comments

  1. bdrube // April 20, 2009 at 8:50 AM  

    Fun fact about the Nationals: since the franchise moved to DC, Jason Bergmann is actually their career strikeout leader. That says all you need to know about how lousy their pitching has been the whole time.

    All we can do is hope that this past weekend, from Friday night's debacle with Zimmerman and Dunn's misspelled uniforms to blowing three straight games in the ninth inning to the "Sunday Night Bullpen Masscre," was the "bottoming out" of this depression.

    I'm not holding my breath.

  2. Dave Nichols // April 20, 2009 at 10:06 AM  

    bdrube, i share your concern. if it gets worse that 1-10, though, i'm not sure i want to see it.